Let’s be Friends: London Road Fire Station campaigners welcome fresh council talks to save iconic building

The Friends of London Road Fire Station have ‘cautiously welcomed’ Manchester City Council’s promise to discuss launching a fresh Compulsory Purchase Order to buy the neglected building.

London Road Fire Station, a Grade II* listed building, has stood dormant and undeveloped since 1986 when it was bought by Britannia Hotels.

Manchester City Council sought a CPO to secure the purchase of the building from the owners in 2010, but this was rejected by a government inspector after Britannia Hotels gave assurances at a public inquiry in 2011 that they would develop the building quickly.

However, in the three years since there has been little progress and Britannia Hotels have not carried out initial structural surveys that they assured the inquiry they would carry out with 12 weeks of the decision.

Members of Manchester City Council’s Executive will be asked to approve its strategy for bringing London Road Fire Station back into use when they meet tomorrow.

Emma Curtin, Chair of FoLRFS, said: “This is a very exciting development. Well done Manchester City Council for having the courage to consider a second CPO.

“This won’t be an easy decision after the failure of the last one, but as we have demonstrated, there is huge public support for this fantastic building being brought back into use.”

FoLRFS claimed the council has already made moves to discuss the issue behind closed doors, and have made a formal request so the public is able to observe the meeting.

They argue that having an open process outweighs arguments to keep the meeting private due to any commercial sensitivity.

During the meeting, executives will state the council’s intention to take steps towards making a new CPO for London Road Fire Station.

This is unless the council receives written confirmation within six weeks from Britannia Hotels that it will enter into a legally-binding implementation agreement to act on its existing planning permission for the building.

The council will offer to work with the owners to ensure the necessary structural services surveys are carried out as soon as possible and offers to share the costs of such work.

They will also state their intentions to use the building as a hotel, creating employment and ‘safeguarding this architectural gem’.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “London Road Fire Station is a wonderful landmark building with the potential to make a significant contribution to the regeneration of the Piccadilly area.

“But over more than a quarter of a century, it has been allowed to blight this part of the city centre instead. The building’s current owners have presided over its deterioration and disuse.

“Despite making public commitments to bring it back into use, they have so far failed to demonstrate any genuine intention to do so. In this case, their inaction speaks louder than words.

“We are giving them one last chance but they need to act quickly to take it. The people of Manchester have waited long enough for this fine heritage building to be brought back to life, and we will do everything in our power to make sure this happens.”

FoLRFS have been pushing for a new CPO since launching their campaign in February 2013, believing it to be the only viable option to save the decaying building. 

Currently the iconic building in the centre of the city has been neglected for 28 years; it was placed on English Heritage’s At Risk register in 1998.

Due to the history of the Grade II* listed building and the background of a failed CPO, the campaign group believe that a transparent process subject to public scrutiny is essential.

Ms Curtin said: “This is a great opportunity for the council to really engage with the public. Thanks to everyone who has helped us to keep the Fire Station on the agenda over the last two years.

“A new CPO cannot be allowed to fail so we will scrutinise the council’s strategy and continue our work to see this site thriving again.”

The Friends were recently accepted onto the Community Assets in Difficult Ownership (CADO) programme in order to further their campaign to save the building.

They have already held an initial scoping meeting to review options for future activity.

Secretary Adam Prince added: “I am so glad we have pursued this campaign and for our efforts to be heard.

“The fire station is a local icon, the gateway to our city, and it’s potential must be realised.”

Image courtesy of larfin out loud, with thanks.

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